Fitting of a limerick, when an Irishman in Modesto threw a dart at a map of Ireland, local favorite P. Wexford’s Irish Pub was born.
As the story goes, in 1998, Patrick Johnson, looking to name his recently opened dream of an Irish Pub, posted a map of his homeland and threw a dart, stating where it landed would be the name of his new McHenry Avenue establishment. The dart stuck in Wexford County.
Known for its year-round corned beef and cabbage and other Irish favorites, this lively American-Irish pub is a cheery and casual spot with great fare and a strong beer selection of over 24 beers on tap, and traditional Irish spirits of whiskey and other liquors.
A visit to the pub in mid-September, a few days shy of Sept. 17, known in the Irish culture as “halfway to Saint Patrick’s Day,” the tavern did not feel like a sports bar. The establishment manages to be both a lively pub and a friendly dining spot.
Although few would say P. Wexford’s exterior differentiates itself from other local places, the interior was filled with life, thanks to a friendly staff and welcoming vibe established by many neighborhood regulars.
Manager Ron Hurst, who worked his way up from a dishwasher nine years ago, is comparable to a Master Sommelier – but for beer. He has extensive spirits knowledge and will assist you in choosing a favorite ale, lager or pilsner according to your tastes and the dish you order.
“We rotate the beers daily,” said Hurst of the 24 taps he keeps active. “I decide by what’s seasonal or recently introduced, and always by what’s popular with the customers.”
Overhearing snippets of conversations it was obvious that people who were repeat customers were in no hurry to leave. They were pleased to be back and some had no need for a menu when they ordered.
P. Wexford’s Shepherd’s “Pye,” which utilizes lamb instead of beef, is the epitome of comfort food. Simplicity notwithstanding, the pie has plenty going for it with its lamb and Guinness stew smothered with mashed potatoes, sour cream, and shredded cheese.
The corned beef and cabbage, slow cooked with plenty of mashed potatoes and cabbage served with their “poor man’s mustard” is extremely popular and always on the menu.
“Our fish and chips is amazing,” said restaurant manager Stephanie Dillon. “It’s some of the best in the area.”
Dillon said the batter was prepared from Harp Lager covering two generous sized pieces of cod and served with steak fries.
Though ownership has changed since Patrick Johnson, Hurst points out that the pub hasn’t strayed from the original recipes and even has a “secret menu” (longtime favorites that may no longer be on the regular menu) known to its regulars which make up eight percent of their business.
The staff at P. Wexford’s is friendly and obviously well trained. According to both Hurst and Dillon, there is little turnover at the pub with staff already knowing an individual’s favorite dish or drink.
St. Patrick’s Day is obviously P. Wexford’s grandest day of the year, winning them the MAMA (Modesto Area Music Awards) for Best Small Event.
On St. Patrick’s Day – the actual day, not weekend as Hurst is quick to point out – the staff goes all out. The parking lot is closed off as live bands play Celtic music among the traditionally dressed bar wenches and leprechauns and others in attendance.
The pub has a weekly calendar of events with live music Tuesday through Saturday. Mondays feature a trivia night with 20 percent off drafts and Thursdays highlight a different brewing company.
“We’re widely known, but kept a secret by our regulars to keep it from becoming overcrowded,” said Hurst.
P. Wexford’s is at 3313 McHenry Ave. in Modesto. They are on social media sites on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.